Physicians are the central stakeholders in U.S. medicine. Each doctor averages a couple thousand patients under care and controls a couple million in healthcare spend each year. But for marketers, doctors are often seen as one of the most challenging and expensive groups to reach. There are less than a million practicing physicians in the U.S. and each is highly specialized in their daily work. Many of the things marketers hold true for other consumer and business audiences are entirely false in medicine. Here are five unexpected facts about physicians you should consider for your next marketing campaign:
1. Doctors don’t have a desk. Literally. The majority of physicians aren’t sitting in an office each day, they’re mobile-first. Between scrubbing in for surgery, sleeping in the on-call room, writing prescriptions, and stepping out for some much-needed coffee, doctors don’t end up spending a lot of time in front of an actual computer. Instead, they favor their mobile devices, often checking lab results and keeping each other up to date on their phones and tablets. Their busy schedules have made it such that they were the first group in the U.S. to be truly mobile. Smart marketers should target their digital campaigns to be mobile-ready first.
2. An Apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away. Doctors love their Apple devices. Today, 85% of doctors are iPhone users, compared to 32.5% of the general population who choose the Apple phone over any Android model. Doctors not only love iPhones, but they’re fast about adopting them, too. Within nine weeks of its release, nearly one in four physicians was already using the iPhone 6. (To put that in context, iPhone 6 represents only 14% of the consumer market today). When planning your medical campaigns, make sure to use Apple, not Android, as the leading device.
3. Doctors can’t use email or text as we know it. Due to strict HIPAA regulations requiring all patient-related communication to be encrypted, doctors are virtually banned from using email and SMS messaging in their daily work. When doctors update anyone on their team about their patients’ progress, the fax and pager are still king. HIPAA violations result in fines of up to $1.5 million dollars – making physicians very cautious about the way they collaborate. Communication between doctors is a huge issue in American medicine. Although we as marketers don’t face the same challenges, we should incorporate both traditional and nontraditional methods in our tactics, from email, to tablet or phone-optimized advertising, to direct mail campaigns for reaching physicians.
4. Doctors are highly social. Leave all your preconceptions about nerds in labc oats at the door! From late-night study sessions in medical school to working in multiple clinics or hospitals, doctors rely heavily on professional networking throughout their careers. Doctors, especially primary care physicians, send hundreds of patient referrals a year, which is further proof that medicine is powered by strong physician relationships.
While doctors are highly social, you won’t find them connecting to each other on Facebook or LinkedIn. Some may leverage Facebook for their personal network or LinkedIn to drive patient awareness of their practice, but those networks aren’t used for their day to day work.
5. Context is king. When you’re marketing to doctors, it is especially important to know your audience and address their needs. This means going above and beyond in terms of hyper-targeting. Remember, they’ve been training for decades and much of what they practice is extremely specific. Make sure you know their clinical or academic focus before reaching out. The next time you write something for cardiologists, consider whether they are electrophysiologists, interventional cardiologists, or even better, “interventional cardiologists with a focus on coronary artery stents.” Find knowledgeable medical advisors who can ensure that the healthcare terminology and targeting in your campaigns makes sense for physicians.
Now that you have a better sense of what the professional life of a physician is really like, how will you adjust your marketing strategies? Focusing on mobile instead of desktop advertising? Finding the social networks where physicians connect? Or bringing on a expert medical advisor to ensure your marketing content passes the sniff test? With a little extra consideration, your next campaign is sure to be a hit with physicians.